WASHINGTON DC — Search warrant documents used by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators reveal how agents zeroed in on potential criminal activity related to New Britain native Paul Manafort’s time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.
The documents, used to obtain a search warrant in building the case against Manafort, were revealed in a court filing late Monday night. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in two federal cases, and the charges he faces do not include allegations about his time on the campaign.
The search warrant makes clear that Mueller is also focused on Manafort’s actions connected to the campaign. The White House and others have repeatedly said that the investigation into Manafort concerns his activities before he joined Trump’s team in 2016.
Investigators in a search warrant application last July told a judge in Virginia that they sought evidence related to Manafort’s interactions with a Russian real estate magnate and were suspicious of possible campaign finance violations.
Specifically, the investigators sought from Manafort’s apartment records “involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower” and anything involving Aras and Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire and his son tied to the meeting, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and to a possible earlier unsuccessful attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Manafort attended the meeting, which was facilitated by the Agalarovs and attended by their publicist and an employee of their company, and a Russian lawyer who was believed to be bringing revealing information about Hillary Clinton. Manafort was in the meeting, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.
CNN has reached out to the Agalarovs’ attorney.
It follows the disclosure last week that in August 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein outlined for the special counsel that he could investigate Manafort for payments from Ukrainian politicians but also allegations that Manafort was “colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
An FBI agent’s affidavit included in the paperwork also describes how investigators had probable cause to search for evidence related to several crimes with which Manafort was eventually charged, like foreign lobbying, tax and banking violations.
Yet there’s one possible crime listed on the affidavit he hasn’t been charged with, and that could point to the core of the current probe: violations of the foreign contribution ban. That law bars foreign nationals from donating “directly or indirectly” to US elections, campaigns and political parties and also prohibits people in the US from receiving those contributions. CNN reported last week that Mueller’s investigators have looked into the possibility that wealthy Russians funneled money into the presidential election.
Twenty-seven pages of the affidavit that follow the description of crimes under investigation are blacked out, indicative of redactions needed to protect the ongoing investigation.
The search warrant paperwork was made public as Manafort argues that the seizure of all the computers and electronics in his Alexandria, Virginia, apartment was too broad. He says the search gave the investigators access to devices that might not have been used in his suspected crimes, according to the filing. For instance, they grabbed an Apple iPod Touch and old electronics in a junk drawer, he said.
Manafort is asking a judge to throw out evidence collected during the raid, and also says the special counsel’s office has violated his Fourth Amendment rights by not returning to him items they seized that were unrelated to the investigation.
The investigation team sought a laundry list of data, including interactions between Manafort and his family and close associates, financial records and purchases of luxury suits, rugs and watches.
Manafort previously took issue in court with a search of his storage locker in Virginia, which contained boxes of business records.
The illumination of the July raid of Manafort’s home, which became public days after it happened, happens hours after prosecutors in New York, separate from Mueller, swept the belongings of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney.